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G. Lodewijks

Delft University of Teclinology

There are several standards, like DIN 22131 Part 4, that prescribe a design f o r a belt
splice of a specific belt class. The design normally consists of a prescription of t h e
splice length, the right angle, and t h e actual layout pattern of plies or cords. There
are however, no standards t h a t explain the relationship between the design of a belt
splice and the specific application which t h a t splice has t o perform. W h a t for
example, is the effect of the belt speed; the conveyor length; the relaxation
distances between pulleys; the pulley diameter; transition distances; and the
conveyor dynamics on the performance of a splice? How does one ensure t h a t belt
splices do not jeopardize the safety of a belt conveyor?

This paper discusses the f u n d a m e n t a l background of a splice design and explains

how the specifics of a certain application may affect the splice design.


Conveyor belts are produced in pieces of a certain length and rolled into a roll. This
length is determined by the m a x i m u m belt roll diameter and/or the maximum
allowable transport weight. The average length of belting on a roll is about 300 m. In
order t o make a belt endless, a splice is required. Since most major belt conveyors
need an endless belt longer than 300 m, multiple splices are necessary. A splice is the
weakest linl< in a conveyor belt. In addition, the splice strength is in t i m e reduced by
fatigue. To ensure that a belt conveyor operates safely during its intended lifetime,
the splice needs t o be carefully designed. Splice designs are standardized by
standards lil<e DIN 22131 - Part 4 (1). However, a splice is never a 'one size fits ail'.
This paper therefore describes the fundamentals of splice design that assist in t h e
design of a belt splice which safely operates in a specific application. The focus is on
steel cord belts.

When considering a conveyor belt there are t w o components that determine the
technical lifetime of a belt: the condition of the belt covers, in particular the t o p
cover, and the splices. The t o p cover thickness is chosen so t h a t the anticipated wear
over the lifetime of the belt is such that some t o p cover rubber still remains at t h e
end of the belt's life. Splices need to be designed in such a way that the fatigue life of
the splices in the belt exceed the lifetime of the overall belt. The t o p cover thickness
selection is not discussed in this paper.

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Figure 1. An open steel cord splice

In a splice, ttie normal layout of the conveyor belt carcass is discontinued and t h e
end of the one belt is connected w i t h the end of t h e adjacent belt by means of a
splice. Figure 1 shows an open splice of a steel cord belt that illustrates a specific
pattern of the splice cables. As can be seen, the cables of b o t h ends are laid in such a
pattern that they overlap. In between this cable overlap zone, rubber strips are
inserted. These rubber strips, after vulcanization of the splice, allow the transfer of
forces arising f r o m the belt tension f r o m one cable t o the other. This tension transfer
causes shear stress in these rubber strips. Therefore these strips are also called shear
panels. In practice, numerous splice patterns are possible, see for example Figure 2.

Figure 2. Two options for a steel cord belt splice pattern


DIN 22131 - Part 4 describes a test that establishes the fatigue strength of a test
splice under a continuous varying dynamic load. Using this test, a curve that links t h e
number of load cycles N w i t h the shear stress in the belt splice can be d e t e r m i n e d .
This curve is called the S-N curve. In literature this curve is also called the W ö h l e r
curve. The test conveyor belt w i t h the splice to be tested is positioned around t w o
pulleys (Figure 3). One of the pulleys is able t o move and apply a certain tension on
the test belt. The diameter of the pulleys depends on the belt rating. The tension is
varied in a saw-tooth fashion between limits over a certain period of t i m e . A t o t a l
tension cycle takes the belt 18 rotations around the test rig. The lower stress level is
fixed at 6.67% of the rated braking strength of the installed test belt. The higher
tension is changed f r o m test t o test and the belt is tested until t h e splice breaks.

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Each test therefore produces a S-N point. W i t h multiple tests, varying the m a x i m u m
tension, the S-N curve can be made (Figure 4). The tension in the belt produces a
shear stress in the splice. The value of t h e tension at which the splice lasts at least
10,000 cycles is called the fatigue strength of the belt (Se in Figure 4). The shear
stress that corresponds w i t h Se is called the endurance stress Oe. A splice t h a t lasts
10,000 load cycles is considered a safe splice.

Figure 3. Test conveyor belt positioned around two pulleys

Hanover University

10' 10' 10' 10" 10' 10*

N f , c y c l e s t o failure

Figure 4. An S-N curve

As said before, the test conveyor belt is subjected t o a fluctuating dynamic tension
causing a fluctuating dynamic stress in the belt. The m a x i m u m stress is Omax and the
m i n i m u m stress, at a belt tension of 6.67% of t h e belt's rated braking strength, is
Omin. The mean stress Om t h e n can be defined as

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~ 2
The stress amplitude Oa, also called the alternating stress, is defined as

Different combinations of the mean stress and the alternating stress can give t h e
same lifetime f o r a splice. This can be visualized in a so-called constant life diagram,
(Figure 5).

Constant Life Diagram

(J ultimate stress

-1Ü0 0 200 400 600 ^

Figure 5. Constant life diagram

The end of the constant life diagram is f o r m e d by the belt's rated braking strength or
ultimate stress Ou. The t w o lines in Figure 5 indicate t w o different levels of live or in
this case N. The line t o use here is the line that represents N=10,000. That line
indicates the difference b e t w e e n a safe combination of the mean stress and the
alternating stress and an unsafe combination, also see Figure 6.


"safe"\ ' "infinite"


Figure 6. Safe and unsafe zones in the life diagram

In literature ^ t w o approximations of the constant life curve are used. The first is the
approximation of Goodman (England, 1899)

The second approximation is Gerber's (Germany, 1874) approximation

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In practice the constant life curves tend t o fall b e t w e e n the Goodman and Gerber
curves. The life curves can be used t o access w h e t h e r a combination of alternating
stress and mean stress leads t o a safe operation of a belt conveyor w i t h t h a t specific
splice design.

Instead of testing a full steel cord belt splice, as specified by DIN 2 2 1 3 1 - Part 4, an
'H-block' can be used in combination w i t h the finite element m e t h o d . Figure 7 shows
an H-blocl< that is a block of vulcanized rubber normally w i t h t h r e e steel cords.
Variants w i t h five cables are also used. The steel cords are the same cords as t h e
steel cords used in the steel cord belt. The rubber o f t h e H-block is t h e same rubber
as the rubber used in the splice of the belt.

Figure 7. H-block

An H-block is designed in such a way that the shear stresses t h a t normally occur in
the envisioned total splice also occur in the H-block. Therefore the overlapping
lengths of the steel cords in the H-block as well as the pitch b e t w e e n t h e cables need
t o be carefully selected. Using a series of H-blocks and a tensile tester t h a t is used t o
subject the H-block t o a dynamic load curve enables the d e t e r m i n a t i o n of the S-N
curve of the H-block (with tension and not shear stress). Since the tensile tester
applies a force on the cables of the H-block, this force needs t o be translated t o a
shear stress in the shear panels between the steel cords. For this a finite e l e m e n t
model of the H-block can be used, (Figure 8). Therefore t h e c o m b i n a t i o n of the finite
element model of the H-block and the results of the tensile tests produce a t r u e S-N
curve linking shear stress to number of load cycle N. This S-N curve is also valid f o r
t h e total splice as long as the maximum stress in the total splice remains less t h a n
the endurance stress determined w i t h the H-block. For the design of t h e t o t a l splice,
a finite element model of the total splice needs t o be made. The advantage of the
test procedure w i t h H-blocks and finite element models versus a t o t a l splice test is
t h a t t h e H-block procedure is much faster and cheaper as it enables virtual
prototyping. The disadvantage is that some end users of conveyor belts do not
accept the procedure.

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.002245 1.233 2.463 3.694
.617476 1.846 3.078 4.309 5.539

Figure 8. Finite element model of an H-block


In the previous paragraph it was assumed that a splice is subject to a constant

average stress and a fixed alternating stress. In reality this is, of course, not the case.
In reality the belt tension depends on the load and operational conditions. In o t h e r
words, it makes a difference to the belt tension w h e t h e r a belt is empty or fully
loaded, whether it is summer or winter, and w h e t h e r the belt is running at a
constant speed or starting/stopping. In order t o take into account the load
variations, which lead t o stress variations, a cumulative load diagram is essential. A
cumulative load diagram graphically presents all t h e loads acting on the belt during
its lifetime.

Assume that a belt conveyor makes N revolutions or load cycles in its lifetime. During
Nl cycles the maximum stress is oi, d u r i n g N2 cycles t h e m a x i m u m stress is 02 etc.
The maximum stress used in the splice design calculations then is (2)


In Paragraph 3 the dependency of the stress on t h e load factor and the operational
conditions was m e n t i o n e d . Here, the impact of various belt conveyor design choices
on the life of a splice are discussed.

4.1 Belt speed

An important belt conveyor design choice is the belt speed. Depending on the nature
o f t h e bulk solid material t o be transported and on the length and application o f t h e
belt conveyor, a belt speed is selected. Normally, a rule of t h u m b can be used: fine
materials use a low belt speed, course materials a high belt speed, in-plant
conveyors run at a low speed whereas overland conveyors use a higher speed.

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Given a specific belt conveyor's length L and belt speed v, t h e n u m b e r of load cycles
the conveyor belt completes per year is

iVj,e„. = 15,768,000^ 6

From Equation 6 it is learned that if t h e belt speed doubles, t h e n u m b e r of load

cycles doubles as well. If t h e lifetime of a splice, and thus t h e conveyor belt, is
guaranteed for a certain number of years, which is not u n c o m m o n , t h e n w i t h an
increase in belt speed, an increase in fatigue life is required. In practice this means
t h a t a conveyor belt w i t h a higher belt speed needs a longer splice t o reduce t h e
m a x i m u m shear stress and thus increase t h e number of load cycles until t h e e n d o f
the belt's lifetime.

4.2 Conveyor length

The belt length has t h e opposite effect on the lifetime of t h e belt w h e n compared t o
the belt speed. The longer t h e belt conveyor, the fewer load cycles t h e conveyor belt
makes over a given period of time (Equation 6). This means t h a t generally, w i t h an
increase in the length of a belt conveyor, the length of t h e splice can decrease
because fewer load cycles allow f o r a higher maximum shear stress. In practice this is
relevant because it means t h a t long overland conveyors may require shorter splices
than t h e splice length prescribed by standards like DIN 2 2 1 3 1 . This leads t o a
reduction in splicing t i m e and costs.

4.3 Relaxation distance between driven pulleys

After a belt splice passes a driven pulley t h e belt needs t o 'recover' f r o m t h e sudden
change in tension. The belt tension and thus stress before t h e driven pulley is higher
than after t h e driven pulley unless t h e system is regenerative. The belt needs t i m e t o
relax f r o m t h e change in tension and t h e elongation that follows. If t h e belt does n o t
have t h e o p p o r t u n i t y t o relax before it passes t h e next driven pulley, as in t h e case in
multiple driven pulleys, then a residual stress remains in t h e belt, w h i c h increases
the overall stress in t h e belt. This needs t o be accounted f o r in t h e c o m p i l a t i o n of a
cumulative load diagram.

4.4 Pulley diameter

The pulley diameter determines t h e extra bending stress in t h e belt. W h e n passing a

pulley t h e extra stress in t h e belt is equal t o
A; 2t

where t is the belt thickness and D t h e pulley diameter.

In general it can be said t h a t w i t h an increase of t h e pulley diameter, a belt stress

reduction can be achieved. This effect also has t o be taken into account in t h e
cumulative load diagram. However, t h e impact of t h e pulley diameter o n t h e splice
design is limited.

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4.5 Transition distances

Similar to the discussion on the pulley diameter, the transition f r o m a flat belt to a
troughed belt imposes an additional stress into the belt. This extra stress depends
primarily on the transition length, the belt w i d t h , the t r o u g h angle and the length of
the wing rolls. Usually, an increase in transition length leads to a decrease in belt
stress. The impact of the transition length on the splice design however, like t h e
pulley diameter, is limited.

4.6 Dynamic conditions

An important factor in the splice design is the m a x i m u m dynamic belt tension.

Normally the maximum belt tension, and thus stress, occurs during start-up of a belt
conveyor. Therefore the start-up procedure, characterized in start-up profile and
t i m e , and the number of starts during a day determine the impact on the belt stress.
The maximum belt tension during start-ups has t o be incorporated in the cumulative
load diagram. To determine the dynamic belt stresses, a dynamic analysis is
required. In general it can be said that a decrease of the start-up t i m e increases t h e
belt stress. Therefore an appropriate start-up time needs t o be determined
(Equation 3).


The previous paragraphs describe h o w an applied splice design procedure can be

set-up to enable the safe operation of a belt conveyor. The first step is to determine
the belt tensions and stresses. To achieve this, a static design procedure must be
followed to determine the belt stresses during steady state running under the
different load cases (empty versus fully loaded). At the same t i m e extra stresses
f r o m , for example, the pulleys and transition distances are taken into account.
Secondly a dynamic tension analysis is p e r f o r m e d revealing the belt stresses during
t h e different operational conditions (starting and stopping). W h e n the different belt
stresses have been d e t e r m i n e d and the relative t i m e t h a t the belt is subjected t o
these stresses, the cumulative load diagram is created.

Using Equation 5, the m a x i m u m stress t o use in the splice design is calculated. Using
the information f r o m the S-N curve, for which H-block tests are required, a proper
splice design can be made by using the finite element m e t h o d as demonstrated in
this paper.

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1. DIN 22131 (1988), "Steel cord conveyor belts for hoisting and conveying", Deutsches
Institut Für Normung.

2. Gere, J. and Timoshenko, S. (1996), "Mechanics of materials". Nelson Engineering; 4th

Revised edition (22 Nov 1996), ISBN 978-0534934293.

3. Lodewijks, G. (1996), "Dynamics of belt systems". Delft University of Technology, ISBN




Prof Lodewijks studied mechanical engineering at Twente University and Delft

University of Technology, The Netherlands. He obtained a master's degree in 1992
and a PhD on the dynamics of belt systems in 1996. He is president of Conveyor
Experts BV, which he established in 1999. In 2000 he was appointed full professor in
the d e p a r t m e n t of Transport Engineering and Logistics at the Faculty of [\/lechanical,
IVlaritime and IVIaterials Engineering. In 2002 he was appointed as chairman o f t h e
d e p a r t m e n t , and in 2 0 1 1 became the deputy dean. His main interest is in belt
conveyor technology, a u t o m a t i o n of transport systems, material engineering and
dynamics.! Lodewijks
Delft University of Technology
Faculty of Mechanical, M a r i t i m e and Materials Engineering
Department of Marine and Transport Technology
Mekelweg 2
2628 CD, Delft
The Netherlands
Phone : + 3 1 1 5 278 8793
Fax : + 3 1 15 278 1397
e-mail : or

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The author has requested enhancement of the downloaded file. All in-text references underlined in blue are linked to publications on ResearchGate.